Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NYT 4:00 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:38 (Matt) 
CS 4:37 (Dave) 

People, don’t be fooled by the Monday scheduling of a federal holiday. January 15 would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 85th birthday. Man, he sure accomplished a tremendous amount as a young man—he was just 39 when assassinated. I wonder what his legacy would be if he’d had decades more to build it?

Bernice Gordon’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 15 14, no. 0115

NY Times crossword solution, 1 15 14, no. 0115

So apparently Will Shortz attended Bernice Gordon’s 100th birthday party on Sunday in Philadelphia. The Associated Press wouldn’t lie to us.

Ms. Gordon’s theme takes words that sound like the names of letters and replaces them with those single sound-alike letters:

  • 17a. [It’s all about location, location, location], GEOGRAPHY B (bee).
  • 39a. [1955 hit for the Platters], “ONLY U” (“You”).
  • 62a. [Environs for Blackbeard], CARIBBEAN C (Sea).
  • 11d. [Occasion for sandwiches and scones], AFTERNOON T (tea). Is this redundant? Is “tea” by definition an afternoon event?
  • 28d. [Soul food ingredient], BLACK-EYED P (pea). I would think of the plural peas/beans as an ingredient. Just one single pea is no kind of ingredient. What recipe calls for just one? For the singular, we need a clue like [, for one].
  • 30d. [“Hmm, imagine that!”], “WELL, G!” (“gee”). Hmm, not sure that WELL GEE is a truly crosswordable phrase.

Five more things to review:

  • 24a. [Willow tree], OSIER. Oh, hello, crosswordese! We haven’t seen you for a while.
  • 34a. [Philosopher who wrote “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere”], VOLTAIRE. This is surely prescient, as Voltaire shuffled off his mortal coil long before Keeping Up With the Kardashians came to TV and garnered an ardent audience.
  • 49a. [Causes of glowers], HATES. Don’t like this awkwardness at all. Why on earth is it clued as a peculiar plural noun rather than a verb?
  • 6d. [Southern tip of South America], CAPE HORN. The southern tip of South Africa is Cape Agulhas, but 90 miles away is the similar Cape of Good Hope that many people think is Africa’s southernmost point. I have never been able to keep the two capes-with-four-letter-words-starting-with-Ho straight. Just me?
  • 63d. [21-Across crier], EWE. 21a is BLEAT. Wait. Since when does any sheep “cry” BLEAT? No, sorry, this clue is broken.

Highlights in the fill: LIP-SYNCS, VOLTAIRE, CAPE HORN. Lowlights: That up-filled crossing of SUM UP and OWN UP, plus the perennial A-ONE. Overall, the fill is smooth.

3.75 stars. I wish the theme didn’t have things that rubbed me the wrong way.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Blunt Ends”

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 1 15 14 "Blunt Ends"

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 1 15 14 “Blunt Ends”

“Blunt” is slang for a emptied-out cigar filled with pot, and the ends of the theme answers (in the circled squares) are slang terms for marijuana or cigarettes thereof.

  • 17a. [Loose-fitting gown with a floral print, perhaps], GRANNY DRESS. Great theme entry, if you ask me.
  • 22a. [Separate], SPLIT OFF.
  • 34a. [Church’s offering], GREASY CHICKEN. Church’s Fried Chicken fast food, not houses of worship. “Green” is a new one for me.
  • 48a. [HVAC system device], HEAT PUMP.
  • 55a. [With inches to spare?], WELL-ENDOWED. Firm clue.

Toughest bits:

  • 14a. [Melanite or andradite], GARNET. I’ve heard of melanite but not the other.
  • 32a. [Certain petroleum product], GAS OIL. Seen the term in crosswords before.
  • 45a. [Chinese liquor made from sorghum], MAOTAI. Entirely unfamiliar to me. That O flirts with being an I, in MAI TAI, but the crossing, also challenging, is 27d. [Wimp], MILKSOP. Wouldn’t be surprised if some people fill in MILKSIP just because MAITAI is so much more familiar.
  • 1d. [Monthly release], EGG. Ovulation!
  • 32d. [Circular course], GYRE. For more info, read about ocean gyres.
  • 35d. [“Party Hard” rocker], ANDREW W.K. Not in my ken.
  • 53d. [Russian street snack], BLIN. This word is showing up in more and more crosswords. Plural, blini. Much more familiar in America with the name blintz.

Favorite clue: [She who shall remain nameless] pulling double duty for 42a: JANE DOE and 63a: HER.

3.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “KP Duty” – Dave Sullivan’s review

One of the few times I was able to guess the theme from just the title; namely, two-word entries that begin with the initials K.P..

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/15/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/15/14

  • [Quaint trousers] were KNEE PANTS – are these the same as capri pants or more like [Portmanteau word for a woman’s golf garment] or a SKORT? I tried Khaki Pant first, even though there is nothing quaint about it.
  • [Stay close to the pack] was KEEP PACE
  • [1950s war zone] clued the KOREAN PENINSULA – nice 15 in the center there.
  • The alliterative [Boisterous, boozy blowout] was a KEG PARTY – been to my share of those in my college daze.
  • [Singer with the 2013 #1 hit “Roar”] was the ubiquitous KATY PERRYthis song has become the background music for some TV ad of late, but I can’t recall what the product was.

Though this one of my fastest solves in recent memory, I’ll still ADMIT that the puzzle packed a lot of OOMPH. You’ve got your SIOUX, who may or may not be SEMI-PROS but were more likely to be a PIONEER. Not as big a fan of the plural OLÉS, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it was NOT OK. I also enjoyed the currency of [Title role for Asa Butterfield in a 2013 sci-fi film] or ENDER, as in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Matt’s review


Today we have a dog-themed crossword written by a veterinarian. I’m Facebook friends with Gareth and enjoy his “day in the life of a South African vet” posts since I get to both hear about an animal doc’s life and decipher some SA slang.

The dog in question today is the TERRIER, sitting right there in the middle of the grid like he owns the place. Each of the four pinwheel theme entries starts with a word that can precede TERRIER:

  • 18-a [*Broadcaster of many TV games] = FOX SPORTS.
  • 59-a [*Seemingly unfitting name for Wrigley Field vines] = BOSTON IVY. A bit unfitting, true, but Boston and Chicago do have the Sox connection.
  • 3-d [*Like newly shaved legs, per some razor ads] = SILKY-SMOOTH. Never heard of the Silky Terrier but it’s cute.
  • 26-d [*One checking crossings] = BORDER GUARD. I believe the border collie is universally considered to be the most intelligent breed of dog? According to this book, yes. I think I saw one solving a crossword once.

Nice and easy sub-5-minute solve for me. Makes sense that the BOCA Burger at 1-a originated in Florida, and I dig clues like this where you learn something new and have to use a bit of logic. Nice mix of classical and contemporary knowledge in the puzzle, where both ERROL Flynn and Ron Burgundy get a mention. Also dug MAN UP, BAXTER and IDAHO. Tough crossing at the A of SAO TOME and ARUM, but otherwise pretty smooth.

3.75 stars.

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14 Responses to Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  1. So the meta-answer to the NYT is BUCT PG, right? It’s a movie about a cowboy who can’t spell and was thrown off of his horse; parental guidance suggested.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    I just Litzed a New York Times crossword from May 20, 1953 by Bernice Gordon – when she was 39. So, yeah, you can do a lot after that age.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: WELL, G Amy, I thought AFTERNOON T was perfect. It specifies a real event, a meal with traditions, and it exists as a phrase. My father was an academic and my mom actually invited his grad students for afternoon tea, in the best English tradition. I believe CRESS was involved. Consequently, she was shocked when she was visiting and found out we were having a potluck for our lab–“you mean you ask them to bring their own food?”

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: “I have never been able to keep the two capes-with-four-letter-words-starting-with-Ho straight. Just me?”

    Perhaps a mnemonic can be that the continent of Africa already has a perfectly good horn?

    Also, afternoon tea seems fine to me too, despite potential or inherent redundancy. I suspect it googles well, too.

  5. Brucenm says:

    I enjoyed Gareth’s LAT today, but I was really hoping to see the word ‘othaematoma.’ :-)

  6. Erik says:

    I think you’re being a tad persnickety. “Well gee” is perfectly good fill to my ears and googles well. “Afternoon tea” is also good and not redundant. Here’s an explanation of the difference between “afternoon tea” and “high tea”:

    Strong Wednesday with a fun, simple theme and good fill. (I liked “YIELDING” too.) 4 1/4 stars from me.

  7. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    At least at the time of one of my first visits to England, circa 1984, “tea” simply meant a meal. I was staying with friends, and remember the man of the house coming home and asking – with no humorous intent – “Has the dog had her tea?”

    And when that same family later came to visit me in the USA, we visited Washington, DC, and one of the restaurants in which we ate was “The Black-Eyed Pea” (possibly one of a chain.)

  8. Tracy B says:

    Gareth’s LAT had some added interest in the fill that I enjoyed—“Hood’s weapon” for BOW resonated nicely with Errol FLYNN, the quintessential Robin Hood of film. And then we have pooches ODIE and BAXTER in the fill. It was nice to see Nancy Drew in the SLEUTH clue too—my sister and I grew up reading those mysteries. Good memories.

  9. Gareth says:

    NYT: Not every puzzle has to be groundbreaking to be brilliant. It’s a simple theme that I’m sure has been done a good few times, but I loved the answer GEOGRAPHYB and the snazzy double central answers of ONLYU/WELLG. Plus a smattering of nice long answers and very little junk (I don’t consider hard answers like OSIER to be junk, in moderation and reasonably spaced). Morning teas are a thing in the commonwealth, probably they were Stateside too, but have died out? I’d hate to be the guy having his puzzle running on the same day as this… Oh, wait!

    LAT: This was a deliberate nod to a lady named Barbara Wack, a music teacher from Minnesota, who has been sending me nice emails about my puzzles since before I was published! She had two spunky Bostons named Milton & Foster, but only Milton is still with her sadly. My mother produced the funniest wrong answer I have ever come across when she solved 13D [What mom has that dad doesn’t?] : confronted with ?MS she confidently filled in a P!!!

  10. Patrick Merrell says:

    Any puzzle from a 100-year-old constructor gets an automatic 4 stars from me. This one, 5.

Comments are closed.